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BioGenius Challenge

Everything You Need to Know About the BioGenius Challenge

When it comes to getting involved in extracurriculars in high school, there is no doubt that it is one of the very best things that a bright and young student can do. And one of the very best academic extracurriculars that are available is the BioGenius Challenge.

The BioGenius Challenge is a program that offers high school students the chance to compete and be recognized on the national stage for their own incredible work and research in the field of biotechnology. Students have the chance to apply and compete for prestigious honors in a number of different challenges.

Through these experiences, students not only gain entry into the exciting world of biotechnology, but they are also able to learn about all the exciting pursuits and jobs that can come about form a dedication to learning about biotech.

Overall, the goal of the BioGenius Challenge is to bring together students, teachers, industry professionals, entrepreneurs, and researchers with the ultimate goal of facilitating meaningful exchanges and networking opportunities so that the next generation of biotechnology leaders can meet and be inspired by those who came before them.

Since 2015, the BioGenius Challenge has offered students the chance to compete in three separate challenges that they can test their knowledge and gain national recognition.  Those three challenges are as follows:

  • The Global Healthcare Challenge in medical biotechnology
  • The Global Sustainability Challenge in agricultural biotechnology
  • The Global Environment Challenge in industrial/environmental biotechnology

Students are challenged to come up with new and interesting project ideas in these three areas of study. They will then present their findings to judges who are specifically selected for the knowledge, experience, and talent in each of the three aforementioned topics. They will also make a point to tailor feedback and ideas on a specific student’s project.

Let’s take some time to break down the specifics of each of these awesome topics that any high schooler can decide to pursue in the BioGenius Challenge.

The Global Healthcare Challenge

The Global Healthcare Challenge of the BioGenius Challenge is focused primarily on health care and medical biotechnology.

All over the glove, biotechnology researchers and clinicians are helping heal millions of patients by using the human genome and our own genetic makeup to create a breakthrough technology and products that help doctors and healthcare workers provide patients with the most pressing and important health care needs of the 21st century.

Whether it comes to reducing the rates of infectious disease, increasing the odds of survival for a serious disease, or finding new ways to identify and combat emerging threats in the developing world, biotechnology is one of the most valuable tools that the entire healthcare system relies upon.

For students who are interested in participating in the Global Healthcare Challenge, they get the chance to work with teachers and mentors who have years of experience with the field. They also get the chance to meet, compete with, and learn from some of the brightest students in the United States.

Finally, students get the chance to have their work evaluated and counseled by real-world academic and industry leaders who are currently changing the way people get healthy through biotechnology.

The logo of the BioGenius Program

What subjects can I choose from in BioGenius Challenge?

Overall, projects for consideration for the Global Healthcare Challenge are concerned with the intended or anticipated outcomes of the work, not the processes used to achieve those goals. Some of the more common subjects in the Global Healthcare Challenge section of the BioGenius Challenge include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Druggable targets
  • Potential drugs and vaccines
  • Drug delivery
  • Bioproduction of therapeutics
  • Novel molecules
  • Nanobiotechnologies
  • Medical devices
  • Novel diagnostics
  • Data analytics and computational bioinformatics modelling, health IT application

The Global Sustainability Challenge

While your mind may go to GMOs and other highly advanced forms of science when you think of how biotechnology has impacted agriculture, but the truth is that humans have been practising advanced biotechnology for thousands of years.

Whether thinking about selective breeding to render the best crop or using the incredible powers of fermentation and yeasts to improve and preserve food supply, humans have been natural scientists since the very dawn of their evolution. Perhaps that is one of the many reasons why we have irreversibly changed the face of the planet on which we live.

With that being said, there have been incredible technological gains over the last four decades that have helped researchers help farmers all over the world improving crop resistance, generating high yields, and enhancing nutrition thanks to the unlocking of plant genomes.

In all, this has helped improve and increase the world’s food supply like never before.  Now, more than 13 million farmers from all over the world are taking advantage of the knowledge and tools that have been created thanks to biotechnology.

Students who are interested in taking part in the Global Sustainability Challenge get the chance to work with teachers and mentors within this field as well as compete with and meet some of the brightest students in the United States that are also interested in the topic of agricultural biotechnology while also being counseled and evaluated by some of the academic and industrial leaders who are on the forefront of using biotechnology to unlock novel ways to feed the world.

What subjects can I choose from?

Projects that are available for students to pursue in the Global Sustainability Challenge or focused on the intended or anticipated outcomes of that research as opposed to the process that was used to achieve them. Some topics that students can choose in the Global Sustainability Challenge section of the BioGenius Challenge include but are not limited to:

  • Beneficial symbiotic relationships to enhance agricultural yield
  • New ways to control agricultural disease and spread
  • Genetical rather manipulations to crop plants that allow for optimal growth under imperfect conditions such as temperature, soil depletion, drought, insects, and more
  • Disease Control
  • Improvements in animal health and agricultural reproduction
  • Global food security
  • Ways to improve agricultural soil
  • Value-added foods intended for the benefit of both human and animals
  • Data analytics/computational bioinformatics modelling as well as IT application

High schoolers research various topics of interest

The Global Environment Challenge

With each passing year, it seems to become more and more apparent how important biotechnology is going to be as climate change continues to impact and threaten the planet.

The truth is that most people do not understand going green requires far more than simply recycling cans and planting some trees. To biotechnology professionals, going green means harnessing the power and hacking the code of carbon-based molecules, as well as using biocatalysts such as enzymes and yeasts to make tiny little things make huge amounts of energy.

The goal of the Global Environment Challenge is to challenge students to find the full potential of the alternative fuels that humans are using to create cleaner and more efficient industrial and manufacturing processes. not only are industrial and environmental biotechnology professionals helping fuel the world, but they are also helping protect in the billions of creatures that call at home.

In fact, right now, there are already over 50 biorefineries that are working to try to reduce greenhouse gases and shrink humanity’s ecological footprint on the earth. in the Global Environment Challenge, high school students or given the opportunity to work with experienced mentors and teachers within the field, meet with and compete against some of the brightest students who are interested in environmental biotechnology, and receive judgment and counsel from industry leaders and academic minds who are currently at the forefront of trying to make the world a healthier place by using biotechnology.

As is the case with the other two sections, projects that high school students can pursue in the Global Environment Challenge are meant to focus on the intended outcomes of that work as opposed to the processes used to achieve them. Common examples of projects in the Global Environment Challenge section of the BioGenius Challenge include:

  • Creating and utilizing bio-based degradable materials
  • Marine based products
  • Bioremediation as well as other waste reduction and conversion techniques
  • Novel or improved biofuel production
  • Material production through biological processes
  • Ways to reduce greenhouse gases and/or toxic emissions
  • Data analytics and computational bioinformatics modeling related to industrial environmental biotechnology

2019 Bay Area winner reports on data analytics and computational bioinformatics modeling related to industrial environmental biotechnology

How to apply for the BioGenius Challenge

Now that you know all about all three of the awesome challenges that are offered by the BioGenius Challenge, chances are good you are very interested in learning how you, or your student, can apply.

Luckily, the application process is incredibly easy! If you are a high school student from and studying within the United States, your application can be started by entering the At Large or Local BioGenius Challenges. Which option you end up going with depends on whether or not your state has a local challenge that you can participate in. States that offer the Local BioGenius Challenges include:

If your state is not listed above, you can easily take part in the At-Large BioGenius Challenge. This challenge is specifically designed for high school or home-schooled students who don’t have the option of participating in a state challenge.

What kind of projects tend to be the most successful?

At the local, at-large, national, and international levels, one thing that all students want to know is what kind of projects tend to do well.

Simply, the projects that tend to perform best and earn students the most recognition are ones that think outside the box and manage to break the traditional mold in one way or another. As the challenge has continued to change over the years, students now have more ways than ever to find a project that specifically works with their strengths, skills, and interests.

With that being said, the best students are not the ones that rely on information that they have gathered through high school education. Students are expected to go above and beyond what they learn in the classroom in order to show that they are among the top young minds in the many fields related to biotechnology.

High school student reports on Parkinson's Disease

Why extracurriculars like the BioGenius Challenge are so valuable for high school students?

If you do not already know why extracurricular activities such as the BioGenius Challenge are so valuable for high school students to take part in, we would like to break down some of the simplest aspects for you.

  1. They help encourage social skills: One of the best reasons why extracurricular activities are valuable for students is because they encourage children to learn how to work together and make friends who have similar interests. Even in extracurriculars like the BioGenius Challenge, students will likely form a study group, and will certainly make friends at local and national competitions.
  2. Encourage a strong work ethic. Encouraging a child to take part in an extracurricular activity that challenges them is a great way to teach them about the importance of a strong work ethic. And don’t worry, while you may think that taking part in one will get in the way of school responsibilities like homework and studying, studies show that being involved in and extracurricular actually improves brain function and success in school.
  3. They look great on college applications. This shouldn’t be the only reason why a student chooses to pursue one or more extracurricular activities during high school, but it is certainly a big enough reason to! College admissions officers at the most prestigious universities in the country are always looking to see how students spent their time out of the classroom. Taking part in an extracurricular, and especially assuming a leadership role in it, absolutely jumps off the page on any application. The reason why is because they show that students are willing and able to commit a lot of their time and energy to something that they are passionate about out of the classroom while also excelling within the classroom. This will give a college admissions officer a great idea for what a given student will add to any college campus community.
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